Here’s Chapter Two of the currently untitled book featuring everyone’s favorite Firebird driving, foul-mouthed Egyptian sorceress and necromancer, Issa, with her friends, Ron, the perpetually drunk Arthurian knight, and V, the ever-bored, slightly spacey reincarnated Hindu goddess. Just three good pals looking for Death and finding out that the road to Hell is actually paved with regular ol’ asphalt, NOT good intentions. Who knew?
Check out the first chapter if you missed it: Chapter One
“For a bunch of undead bastards, they’re pretty quick. They’re already chasing after us.”
Issa gave the gas pedal a firm nudge, more out of irritation from the play-by-play from the backseat than the fact that they were in an impromptu high speed chase down Hell’s driveway.
“Could I get a little less commentary and a little more telling me who or what is chasing us?” she said over her shoulder.
“Oh, you know. The usual. Robed figures on skeleton motorcycles wielding flamethrowers.”
Flashing lights in Issa’s driver’s side mirror caught her eye. Just as Ron had described, a robed figure wearing a Greek-style helmet pulled up beside her on a motorcycle made from a fully intact skeleton. The skull furiously winked with red and blue lights in its empty eye sockets. Matching the car’s speed, the robed figure waved a sleeve at Issa and, once he had her attention, jerked his helmeted head to the side, towards the highway’s shoulder.
Issa removed her left hand from the wheel and presented the daimon with a one finger salute. She then slowly and deliberately rolled her middle finger into her palm, briefly making a fist, and looked directly into the flaming eyes of death as she opened her hand and blew a fuck-you kiss out the window.
The fiery gaze floating in the helmet seemed to dampen and narrow in on Issa’s mocking gesture before the figure eased off the throttle and fell back with the other menacing, robed fun-killers keeping a safe distance behind the car.
“Probably nothing to worry about but looks like they’re setting up for a barbecue, Issa,” Ron commented, glancing out the back window.
“Yeah, thanks, I can see them,” the sorceress replied. “You know, I may only have one eye but this bad boy is all-seeing. I could tell you what direction Zeus wipes his golden asshole all the way from here.”
Ron shrugged, doubtful and almost certain Issa didn’t see him do it anyway.
“While I am the tiniest bit curious why you’re using your so-called all-seeing eye to look at arseholes, maybe we should discuss our current situation instead? What’s the plan?”
Issa snorted, patting the dashboard lovingly.
“Who needs a plan? This baby has protection spells upon protection spells sealed into it. Those shitty flamethrowers are about as dangerous as an aromatherapy candle.”
The tell-tale sharp crackle of fire seeped into the conversation as black flames suddenly engulfed the back end of the Firebird. Blazing across the trunk and spoiler, the dark fire burned with unnatural ferocity, eating through the sorceress’ spells in bursts of firework-like sparks. A stifling silence befell the interior of the vehicle as the radio crackled loudly before abruptly cutting off, leaving the occupants to marinate in the awkward quiet. Ron cleared his throat weakly.
“The car’s on fir—”
“I can see the damn car’s on fire!” Issa snapped, all-seeing eye twitching and hands gripping the steering wheel until her knuckles threatened to pop out of her skin.
“They’re dead, more or less, right?” the knight asked, laying on the charm thick and heavy like he was trying to sell fire to the Devil. He wrapped an arm around the headrest and nudged his chin onto Issa’s shoulder.
“Can’t you just use a little of that fancy necromancy of yours and send them on their merry way?”
Not swayed by his salesman pitch, Issa replied past gritted teeth, “I could. Easily. But the way I see it, they decided to bring flamethrowers to a magic fight and if anyone’s burning down Hell today it’s gonna’ be me.”
Letting all hope of a rational conversation tragically die without a fight, Ron sighed, slipping away from the sorceress and dumping himself into the backseat in defeat.
“Can’t argue with that logic. Carry on then, love.”
Needing no further encouragement, Issa clicked off her seatbelt.
“V, take the wheel,” she said as if it were an afterthought, tucking one knee under herself while keeping the other firmly on the gas. “Momma’s gotta’ fuck up someone’s afterlife.”
Without looking up from her task of searching for the one clear radio station in Hades, V placed her left hand on the wheel and replied with distracted nonchalance, “Watch out.”
Issa was already lifting the T-top, nothing but steel plated confidence in her reply.
“I got this. Just keep us on the road.”
“We could always switch seats,” Ron suggested in one final attempt at restoring some sense of sanity to the situation, already in the process of digging a flask out of his pocket. “You could try to kill us all just as easily from the backseat as the driver’s seat, you know.”
Issa’s teeth flashed as the lower half of her face split into a powder keg smile.
“The only thing the backseat is good for is a 2 a.m. sloppy screw or day drinking.”
T-top out of her way, the sorceress spun around until she was facing the billowing flames consuming the rear of the car, her knee keeping her steady in the seat while she buried her heel into the gas pedal. Manic glee flickered in her golden Eye of Horus as columns of Egyptian hieroglyphics burst into life down the length of her arms and ignited her brown skin with blazing gold light.
“So stop your backseat bitching, drink your pocket-scotch like a good boy, and enjoy the ride,” she said with a mouthful of wind and two fistfuls of scalding hot magic.
The skele-cycles spread out on either side of the car, flamethrower barrels locked on the eye-patched sorceress grinning back at them from her suicidal battle stance in her burning vehicle doing 90 miles an hour. With a grand sweep of her arms, an explosive surge of subzero mist snuffed out the car fire and instantly froze the asphalt to the left and right of her into sheets of glass-smooth ice.
Motorcycle tires spun on nothing but prayers, skimming across the icy surface like two-wheeled Zambonis until sliding into an out-of-control pirouette of metal shards and flying skeletal debris. Leaving Issa no time to award herself the highest of fives in victory, a flock of harpies swooped past the daimon roadkill littering the road and began dive bombing the Firebird, oversized flesh-ripping talons aimed straight for Issa’s ‘you gotta’ be shitting me’ face.
“Issa…” Ron dragged out between a hiccup and a scorching belch. “Hey, Issa.”
The sorceress ducked into the car in an arched-back hunch, narrowly avoiding a skull-full of bird feet in serious need of a good manicure.
“Not now, sweetie,” she said to the knight, swiping a hand across her mouth. “Momma’s working.”
Issa popped back up, arms and eye ablaze, ready for Round Two. Magic blacker than a shadow’s shadow oozed into her waiting palms and just as she began lobbing swirling spheres of dark fury, she faintly heard Ron mumble, “Oh, alright then. I’ll just wait until after we crash headfirst into this bus to tell you about this bus we’re about to crash headfirst into.”
“Shit!” Issa exclaimed, slamming herself into her seat and snatching the wheel from Vishma.
“I told you to watch out,” V reminded her dryly with a triple eye roll of annoyance.
“Thanks, that’s super helpful five minutes before the crashing actually happens!”
The road wasn’t wide enough to go around the bus and stopping simply wasn’t an option. There was only one other way and Issa was a woman who loved a good last resort. Instead of slowing down, she hit the gas with a vengeance, the engine’s responding growl setting her loins a-tingle. Barreling towards the Sunday-strolling bus like an unstoppable force of nature, Issa lifted one glowing arm to the sky.
“Better hold onto your dicks with both hands for this!”
Mere feet from ramming straight up the bus’s rear end, the road suddenly swelled like an ocean wave and rolled up into a crudely made ramp. The Firebird was in the air before the half-drunk knight or perpetually bored goddess could object or even contemplate bailing out. Piranha-mouthed harpies flocked alongside the soaring car in a strangely breathtaking mid-air attack of eardrum-liquefying screams and a fluttery cascade of rotting feathers.
Closing all three eyes, V adjusted her seat into a lazy recline and casually draped an arm out the window. Ron kept his lips sealed around the mouth of his flask, drowning out his expletives with one, long swig of booze and protectively cradling his sack with his free hand from the inevitable wheels-to-ground impact. And with most of her dangling out the driver’s side window, Issa alternated between furiously honking the horn at the slow ass bus below her and pumping missiles of shrieking shadow magic wildly into the air at their winged pursuers.
They landed hard with a bone-jarring drop, wheels squealing as rubber frantically clawed into asphalt before jolting forward and taking off with a tail of smoke behind them. Issa gave the steering wheel the sensual stroke of a satisfied lover but was almost immediately snatched from her intimate moment by the dry heaving coming from the backseat.
“If you puke in my car, I swear I’ll shove you out the window and leave you for the harpies.”
Trembling and paler than a ghost’s left ass cheek, Ron surrendered his entire body to the seat, flask clasped tightly to his chest.
“That’s hardly a threat. Tortured by hell-harpies can’t be worse than your driving.”
The car suddenly swerved and teetered on two wheels as harpies slamming into the driver’s side, nearly flipping the vehicle into a non-lethal but highly inconvenient barrel roll. Issa almost yelled at Ron to ‘get his ass in gear and shish kabob those feathered fuckers’ but spotted a tunnel as it peeked over the horizon, just a few miles down the highway. Seeing no buses in sight ahead of them, the sorceress punched the gas, dodging kamikaze harpies from both sides.
“V, will that tunnel take us to the entrance?”
Paying no heed to the Firebird’s erratic zigzagging at top speed or the knight being slung from one side of the vehicle to the other while just managing to cry out a different curse word with every pass, Vishma calmly rolled up her window, replying, “Yes and no. The tunnel does lead to the entrance but—”
A reckless grin broke loose across Issa’s face as she interrupted, “I like those odds.”
“She hasn’t told us the odds yet!” Ron shouted from a gangly heap on the floor.
Issa jerked the wheel hard to the right partially because a harpy hit the car at a bad angle and bounced off with an enraged screech but mostly to roll Ron and his rationality to the opposite side of the car.
“Doesn’t matter. There’s only one thing I do with odds and that’s beat the ever-loving shit out of ‘em.”
Holding onto the edge of the backseat with a white knuckled grip, Ron groaned, “V, can you open your window? I may jump after all.”
Vishma swung her feet up on the dashboard, the rapidly approaching tunnel filling her triple vision.
“Not yet. You’ll thank me later.”
Realizing that logic had lost yet another battle and accepting his defeat with all the dignity he could scrape together from his rag doll position on the floor, Ron flopped onto his back.
“I give up. I’m nowhere near drunk enough to talk any sense into you two. I think I’m actually starting to look forward to Hell.”
Hurtling towards the tunnel that sloped underground to depths unknown, Issa stared down the unfathomable, gaping maw that would take them into the Greek underworld.
“Good ‘cause there’s no turning back now.”
Stolen eye ablaze in gold and showing the sorceress a much different Hell, she softly repeated those seething words that clawed their way across her lips.
“There’s no turning back.”
Leaving a wake of keening harpies and the dusty strip of asphalt that separated life and death behind her, the tunnel rushed to greet Issa and she welcomed the darkness.